Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Alex Leatherwood. The Alabama offensive lineman checks in at number two in the countdown.
The Green Bay Packers had one of the best offensive lines in football last season. With the Packers controlling the line of scrimmage, Aaron Rodgers earned MVP and the Packers finished as the No. 1 scoring offense in the league.
Corey Linsley, the starting center signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Outside of Linsley, it will be the same cast of characters upfront for the Packers in 2021.
The question is, what will that group look like to start the season? Will David Bakhtiari be back from his leg injury? Where will Elgton Jenkins start? Who starts at right guard? Who starts at right tackle?
There are a lot of moving parts, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All those moving parts make it hard to project what position along the offensive line the Packers will address in the NFL Draft.
What the starting offensive line group will look like is the question mark. There is no question that the Packers need to select at least one offensive tackle in the upcoming draft.
A player that the Packers could target with their first pick is Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood. The Alabama offensive lineman is coming off a season in which he earned First-Team All-SEC.
Leatherwood came to Alabama as a five-star recruit out of Alabama. He finished his collegiate career with 41 career starts under his belt. He started 15 games at right guard and 26 games at left tackle.
At Alabama’s pro day, Leatherwood ran a 4.99 40-yard dash at 312 pounds. Leatherwood had a 10-yard split of 1.78.
“He tested really well,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said. “You can see the explosiveness there.”
Leatherwood is the best playing in a phone booth. He has good length for the position. Once he gets his long arms on you it’s over. He’s got thunder in his hands that stun edge rushers.
As a run blocker, Leatherwood mauls the man across from him to open up running lanes. The former five-star recruit has the quickness to climb to the second level and usually hits his landmarks.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has Leatherwood ranked as the third-best guard in the class. Here is a snippet of what Brugler had to say about the Alabama offensive lineman.
“Although he isn’t an explosive mover, Leatherwood is patient and strong in pass protection, relying on his hands to cover up edge speed. He plays like a robot because he is so consistent with his posture and technique but also because of some stiffness in his lower body. Overall, Leatherwood has the physical makeup to survive on the edges, but he might be better suited in the long term to play guard. Whatever the case, he offers the positional flexibility and steady temperament to be a day-one NFL starter.”
That stiffness that Brugler mentioned is a reason why Leatherwood may be best suited to kick inside to guard at the next level. Jeremiah said that he’d give Leatherwood every chance to play right tackle before kicking him inside.
“I view him more as a right tackle. I’m going to give him every opportunity to be successful be there…He’s got some things to work on at tackle. He tends to open his outside gate a little bit. That’s allowed some pressures. We saw some of that early in the Senior Bowl week…He’s got to clean that up. He’s done a lot of work with Duke Manyweather, who is outstanding…Duke’s been working on him with those things…Everybody talks about how intelligent he is. He’s not perfect. He has some technique flaws to work through. To me I’m going to give him the opportunity to start at tackle. If that doesn’t work out I have an opportunity to have a really good guard.”
Fit with the Packers
The Packers don’t have a lot of quality depth at the second most important position in football. They have Bakhtiari (if he’s back for the start of the season), Billy Turner (if they play him at right tackle), and Jenkins (who can kick out to tackle).
Leatherwood makes a ton of sense for the Packers. He has the versatility to play tackle or guard. For a team that has a lot of moving parts along the offensive line, that type of versatlity is attractive.
If Leatherwood is the pick he could be a day-one starter at right tackle or guard. The worst-case scenario he serves as a versatile swing tackle as a rookie and takes over the starting right tackle position full-time in 2022.
It wouldn’t be the sexiest pick. Nobody would be running to the Packers Pro Shop to buy Leatherwood jersey. But, drafting a player like Leatherwood would ensure that the offensive line continues to be a strength.
“He’s a day two guy,” Jeremiah said. “In a really deep draft at the position. Talking about him the highest he could go is the back end of two, would be my guess. He doesn’t get out of the third round for sure.”
If the Packers view Leatherwood as a day-two guy, they could trade out of 29 and snag him early in round two, while possibly acquiring another day-two pick.
Drafting a player like Leatherwood wouldn’t move the needle. But it would give the Packers a guy that could play right tackle or guard for the next decade.